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Prioritizing the Well-Being of Your Greatest Asset: Your Workforce

Wellness has a broad definition and goes far beyond body weight and physical fitness. Businesses of all sizes must approach wellness initiatives holistically and focus on the underlying causes of stress.

Rawpixel/ Shutterstock
Rawpixel/ Shutterstock

About one-fifth of Americans experiences mental health issues. Beyond the significant personal impact, work-related stress costs businesses $300 billion in lost annual productivity. As such, it is the responsibility of business owners and executives to understand the impact that employee well-being has on their people and on their bottom line. And to take it a step further, I believe it is the responsibility of company leaders to proactively look out for not just physical, but emotional and financial wellness for their people.

I recently explored this topic at Fortune’s Brainstorm Health Conference, alongside Headspace’s Chief Science Officer Dr. Megan Jones Bell, EMOTIV’s President, Olivier Oullier, and JP Morgan’s Marvelle Sullivan Berchtold. We discussed how corporate America is making clear progress in caring for its workforce. A great example is JP Morgan, Berkshire Hathaway and Amazon’s collaboration to launch Haven, which will streamline healthcare services for their collective employees in an effort to improve access to the highest quality care.

However, for 99.7% of American businesses, this type of venture is simply not an option. Small and mid-size businesses do not have the capital, resources or collective bargaining power needed to create another Haven. All businesses are subject to the same threats that a lack of employee well-being poses. At Zenefits, we are laser-focused on closing that wellbeing gap — and upping the ante in the process.

For example, the majority of wellness initiatives currently available focus on weight loss or physical fitness offerings, but the current data shows that most businesses are in need of solutions that help target the underlying causes of stress. An estimated 1 million people miss work each day because of stress, and unanticipated absenteeism costs American companies an average of $602 per worker every year. Relieving the root causes of stress, we believe, is best approached by providing actionable tips and tools at the time of need. Employees could be experiencing added stress due to a variety of factors, whether it’s a tragic life event like a death in the family or even a promotion which can, at the outset, increase stress on the employee as well as their team.

At Zenefits, we put our money where our mouth is. Since the start, we’ve taken the complications out of navigating all kinds of healthcare benefits plans–medical, dental, vision and more–and ensured that the more than 11,000 small businesses we serve are able to provide their employees with the right benefit plan in a quick, seamless fashion. No matter where you work, these benefits are needed, and workers and managers alike should not have to deal with the stressful, onerous process that can come with choosing and enrolling in a benefits plan (without the right technology). The world of healthcare and insurance is evolving and changing constantly, and we let our customers leave the worry of keeping up with these changes to us.

In October 2018, we launched a new employee Well-Being application in partnership with Thrive Global. It was built with the input of Industrial-Organizational Psychologists, and allows employees to measure, monitor and understand their well-being mindsets and behaviors so they are equipped to take action for positive change. Business owners can also leverage the app to measure and track workforce well-being at the company or division level.

I am optimistic about the shift in mindset among the small and mid-sized business leaders I work with every day, regarding the importance of employee wellness. Collectively, we have an opportunity to make real change at the strategy, process and technology levels to deliver better health programs for their businesses and their people.

It’s all part of our mission to bring resources to small and emerging businesses, leveling the playing field between them and large organizations to take on some of the biggest issues of our time. We’re in it. Together.

Jay is Chairman & CEO at Zenefits. He brings more than 20 years of experience in leading both public and private technology companies. Previously, Jay served as CEO of Ooyala, and Agile Software. Before that, Jay was a senior executive at both PeopleSoft and SAP. Jay is a member of the Global Leadership Council at the Lucas Graduate School and College of Business at San Jose State University.

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